Life-Changing Equine Therapy Brings Hope and Healing to Local Veterans
When I first interviewed Christianna Capra (CC), co-founder and director of the non-profit Spring Reins of Life in Three Bridges, NJ, I was clueless about equine therapy and how it works. I assumed that the clients would be riding the horses for the therapy. Nope, not at all.
Simply Being Near a Horse Can Lower a Human Heart Rate
CC explained that the therapy is derived from simply being near the horse. In a group therapy session, participants complete various goal-oriented activities such as navigating an obstacle course with the horse, brushing the horse, or feeding the horse. It has been scientifically proven that when a person is physically close to a horse, their heart rate will mimic the heart rate of the horse, physically calming the person. Said another way, the horse’s heart rhythm influences a human’s heart rate like a magnet. The program at SRoL is an EGALA certified program meaning that the group sessions include three treatment members – a credentialed, mental health professional, an equine specialist, and the therapy horse.
Veterans Start To Feel A Sense of Normal Again With Equine Therapy
The effects of being near a horse sounds fantastic but the equine therapy is so much more than that. At the Spring Reins of Life Program, OP Horse, equine therapy helps a very special group of people – our local veterans. Often these local heroes need help to cope, to control anxiety and to feel, as one veteran put it, normal again. For a veteran suffering from PTS or other trauma, equine therapy can make the difference in saving his or her life. CC Capra has seen it happen. She experienced the healing power of horses in her own life.
A Personal Calling Fuels Veteran Healing
A horse owner as a young girl, CC went on to enjoy a career as a corporate publicist in NYC yet the pull of horse ownership was far too strong. Her opportunity to become a horse owner for the second time came when a Central Park horse, Spring Thaw, needed rescue. Years after Spring Thaw’s rescue, in 2007, CC embraced another opportunity to change the course of her life with equine therapy when she was introduced to the EGALA program and has not looked back.
Witness to the Miracles
As the co-founder of SRoL, CC has had the honor to witness the miracle of equine therapy for veterans (and trauma survivors) many times over the past 10 years. By her account, she has seen “tough Marines break down in tears in the mane of a horse who stood by their side and held them up.” She has met “wives, sisters, and girlfriends of veterans who come to the farm to meet a horse (who helped their loved one)…only to say “thank you” with hands over their hearts.” CC says there have been letters and postcards sent to the horses with words of thanks for a life changed sometimes months or years after therapy.
Who could imagine that therapy with horses could provide veterans with the confidence and hope they need to live after trauma, to keep going? As one veteran put it, “If I can make an animal twice my size do what I want it to do maybe I can start to do other things in my life, too.”
“Horses Eat Like Horses”
Since 2012, over 1,100 Lyons Hospital PTS combat trauma unit veterans as well as women’s, domiciliary and substance abuse unit veterans have visited SRoL at Hunt Cap Farms on the border of Hunterdon County and Somerset County. Spring Reins of Life wants to continue to do their great work, but COVID has hit the program hard. As they say, “Horses eat like horses.” They are inviting sponsors to contribute to the OpHorse program for Lyons Hospital Veterans to continue this amazing and life-changing work. Volunteer opportunities are also available. If you or a teenager you know desires a position, or you would simply like to learn more, you can visit their website at www.springreinsoflife.org or contact CC at [email protected]